When it comes to traffic congestion, a new study says the Twin Cities ranked the most improved in the nation last year.
The INRIX National Traffic Scorecard tracks GPS data in the top 100 cities across the country, and that allows researchers to track distance and speeds as low as 20 miles an hour.
That data shows that traffic congestion dropped by 27 percent between 2010 and 2011. In the month of December alone, congestion dropped by 49 percent, though some of that data reflects the traffic snarls caused by the near-record snowfall from the year before.
The study also indicates that the trend to better traffic flow is the result of the new Crosstown interchange, and it also cites a significant drop in construction projects -- from 283 in 2010 to just 258 last year.
MnDOT has it's own data that measures congestion every time traffic speeds drop below 45 mph, and there are sensors in the pavement every half mile that are monitored from the remote Traffic Management Center in Roseville. By their measurements, congestion hit a plateau last year.
"As we look out over into the future, we're going to se further recovering with the economy and further growth in the Twin Cities metro. That means more congestion -- and that's why we have to look at these other tools to help manage the congestion," explained Bryan Kary, freeway operations engineer with MnDOT.
INRIX's study recommends that cities use dynamic toll lane signing technology to better manage their traffic, but that's something MnDOT is already doing. There are already 180 electronic lane control signs along Interstate 35 W, and 110 more will be added along Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul this summer.
Yet, while traffic may have improved last year, commuters only care about what is happening now. Looking at the INRIX data from April, it appears that congestion is actually up 46 percent from last year.